June 18, 2019
It’s been one year since the NoveList baton was passed along to the next generation of readers’ advisory experts. Lucky for us, however, Duncan Smith continues to offer us inspiration on the connection between books and our daily lives. In this month’s issue of Booklist Online, Duncan shares a personal conversation on this very topic and reminds of us his own devotion to books and readers.
We discussed the article here at the NoveList office and how it connected to our own reading experiences and found that many of us have felt that we read a book at the right (and sometimes wrong) times in our lives. Have you ever read a book at *just* the right time? A book shows up in your life at the perfect moment, speaking to you, your situation, your place in space and time? We would love to hear your stories. We’ll start:
What I Told My Daughter: Lessons from Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women by Nina Tassler: I read this a few years ago when it seemed like there were just too many stories in the news about women being treated with disrespect. I was struggling to find ways to tell my teenage daughter both about the harsh realities she'd find out in the world and my optimism about her future. It came at just the right time and emphasized that the most important thing was not what I said, but just that I tried to say something, so she would know that everyone struggles to find balance in the world sometimes.
Danielle Borasky, Vice President
Phantom Banjo/Songkiller Saga, Vol.1 by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough: At my first local art show, I felt terribly young and awkward. The other artists all did floral watercolors, pet portraits, and such. A bearded, lanky older man (definitely a Gandalf type) was one of the few who paused at my goddess-y figure drawings. He was a used book dealer and gifted me a copy of Elizabeth Scarborough’s Phantom Banjo. I offered to pay, but he just smiled: “Nah. Keep your money for more art supplies.” He made me feel like a “real” artist. The book inspired drawings that led me to all new adventures as an artist at fantasy/science fiction conventions.
Kim Burton, Readers’ Advisory Librarian
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, M.D.: I don’t usually share that this is a book I found personally meaningful, but I’ve read it twice in my life — once in my early twenties, and once again when I was going through a divorce. I love the way the author touches on archetypes and mines traditional stories and fairy tales for lessons from the human experience. If I were reading it now, I might look more critically at how it approaches the idea of gender, but it filled a need for me at the time.
Victoria Caplinger Frederick, Director, Book Discovery
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas: Ever needed a good cry? One might not expect to find one in a children’s picture book, but you very well could with this one. It is quirky and odd, the tone dark and very sad. The main character lives a lonely life sending messages found in the ocean on to their intended recipients, while always wanting a friend of his own. I read it and cried my eyes out as I realized some sorrows of my own I had not dealt with. Who says a picture book is only for a kid? Not me.
Lisa Chandek-Stark, Metadata Librarian II
Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I've Loved) by Kate Bowler: A friend loaned me her copy of this after the passing of my older sister. As I grieved the loss of a family member, it was reassuring to read this author's testimony about the often insensitive, well-meaning things people say during times of tragedy. As I interacted with many acquaintances and friends, it became easier to forgive people since I knew what to expect. I also feel better equipped to walk along with people who are suffering.
Lindsey Dunn, Readers’ Advisory Librarian
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed: I was reading it when I had a big decision looming, and it absolutely helped to put things in perspective and clarify things. Cheryl Strayed writes with compassion about a variety of different topics, but all with the resounding message that everything is going to be okay, even if it’s a difficult road to get there, which is exactly what I needed to hear (read) at the time.
Halle Eisenman, Content Development Manager
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott: Years ago, a long bout of writer’s block overtook my life. Writing had always come easily to me and struggling with it so intensely made me feel lost everywhere else. A friend gave me this book, and I devoured it. It helped me not only kick my writing back on track but gave me some valuable life tips that I continue to use to this day.
Jen Heuer Scott, Sales & Marketing Specialist
Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen: As a brand new grandmother this book came at just the right moment in my life. Quindlen captures the joy of grandparenting but also the challenges of defining our new roles.
Pam Jaskot, Customer Engagement Specialist
MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche and Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White: I read these two books when I had just moved to a new city and didn’t know anyone there. I was glad for the company and commiseration when it was the weekend, and I didn’t have anywhere to be or anyone to talk with.
Jessica Lin, Technical Support Representative
Becoming by Michelle Obama: Maybe it's just hopeful on my part to feel a deeper connection with Michelle Obama than the University of Chicago, but I had just heard the section on the Obamas deciding to have kids when I went into labor and now that I'm back at work and listening to audiobooks again, she's talking about being a working mom. It feels like the fates aligned to have me listen to this book right now.
Jennifer Lohmann, Director of Sales and Marketing
Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression by Brooke Shields: There was a time when no one talked about postpartum depression. This book appeared on my library’s shelves months after having my first child. It came into my life right when I needed it. Brooke Shields helped bring awareness to a problem mothers never thought to discuss and helped destigmatize the crippling feelings of sadness that sometimes happens to new mothers.
Lori Reed, Marketing Specialist
First Test by Tamora Pierce: Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet follows Keladry of Mindelan’s journey as the first openly female knight trainee in Pierce’s long-running Tortall universe, and it could not have come along at a more perfect time for a fantasy-obsessed, nascent feminist fourteen-year-old (that’s me!) who was just starting to navigate her place in the world. To this day, I’m still trying to emulate Kel’s persistence and equanimity.
Kendal Spires, Collection Development Analyst
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: I read this book while on vacation overseas. Walking near the areas mentioned in the story made it an especially visceral experience. I was drawn in by the protagonist, who moved from victim to someone who took charge, something that spoke to me. Also, that it’s intricately plotted served as a much-needed construct, providing an escape from emotionally upsetting election results.
Kathy Stewart, Sales & Marketing Specialist
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger: I read this in high school to avoid actual school work, and I instantly fell in love with Salinger's dialogue. The book inspired me to try my own hand at creative writing in school, and I still dabble to this day.
Sam Stover, Product Manager
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: I took a Women’s Studies class my freshman year of college, and this was the perfect book to be introduced to the importance of feminism and being politically involved, but it also inspired my college studies and career. I was majoring in Engineering, but realizing how technology played such a role in being able to “turn off” rights for women in this dystopian future, I started taking extra computer science and coding classes. The more women in STEM fields, the better — we want equal control over technology and the future!
Melanie Sturgeon, Metadata Librarian I
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner: The librarian at my elementary school understood my reading challenges and found a series of books that she knew would keep me engaged and always excited to start the next story. From then on, I was hooked. Reading, stories, books, libraries. All of it.
Amanda Winseck, Director of Field Sales
It by Stephen King and Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein: The summer I was fourteen was spent reading Stephen King’s epic masterpiece, and the oral history of one of Andy Warhol’s doomed Factory superstars. Both of these appealingly thick tomes centered on bands of outsiders who came together to make their own rules and thereby change the world. Thirty years later, I still love horror movies and drag queens, and I work at NoveList, which is staffed by a band of outsiders who make their own (cataloging) rules and thereby change the (library) world. Coincidence? Nah.
Autumn Winters, Readers’ Advisor Librarian
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister: I am a huge Rebecca Traister fan, so I preordered this book and read it immediately. It was necessary when a lot of us were feeling, um, well…good and mad. My coworker calls these types of books (especially when read at just the right time) “Rage Reads,” which I adore and will forever use.
Molly Wyand, Communications Specialist
Danielle Borasky is the Vice President of NoveList.